Posted By Thomas Perez. April 6, 2011 at 5:56pm. Copyright 2011.
I believe that this study underscores several principles which are vital to the spiritual life of every man, woman, and child. Let us prayerfully consider each of these principles and the practical way in which they should intersect our lives.
1 The Principle of Progressive Revelation.
The principle of progressive revelation is simply this: God has chosen to reveal His truths to mankind sequentially. Thus, the great doctrines of the faith are generally introduced early in the Old Testament, later developed more fully by the prophets, and then by our Lord Jesus in His earthly ministry, and finally seen in their fullest form in the New Testament, in the light of the interpretation and teaching of the apostles.
In Leviticus chapter 17 the principle of progressive revelation is very clearly demonstrated in several ways. First, it can be seen in the progressive way in which God revealed the sins of the Israelites to them. Only at this point has God exposed the pagan dimensions of the sacrifices which the Israelites had been offering all along in the open field (cf. vs. 5-7). God did not reveal this sin until He had the solution for it, a sacrificial system which He had designed.
Second, we can see the principle of progressive revelation at work in the way God has progressively revealed the preciousness of blood in His plan of redemption. Early in Genesis, God took the shed blood of Abel seriously (Gen. 4), and later, after the flood, God gave more exacting commands regarding blood-shedding (Gen. 9:1-6). In the life of these Israelites camped at the base of Mt. Sinai, God used the shed blood of the Passover lamb to distinguish His people from the Egyptians, who were visited by the death angel (Exod. 12). Now, in Leviticus, Israel’s conduct with regard to handling blood is even more carefully prescribed, with very serious consequences for any violation.
While the importance of shed blood was once only to be learned by inference, now the principle of the preciousness of blood is stated more clearly than ever before (cf. Lev. 17:11, 14). The Old Testament will continue to clarify and expand on the value of shed blood for atonement (cf. Isa. 53), and in the New Testament the matter will come into full focus, in the light of the atonement which God has provided for man in the shed blood of Jesus Christ. As Peter put it, “Knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (1 Pet. 1:18-19). Here, Peter does not compare the precious blood of Christ to gold or silver; he contrasts it with these supposedly “precious” metals. He places gold and silver in the category of “perishable things,” which infers to us that the blood of Christ is imperishable, and thus of eternal value. We know, of course, that this is the case, for in heaven it will be the shed blood of the Lamb of God which is still valued for saving sinners:
…Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the first-born of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us, and released us from our sins by His blood (Rev. 1:5).
And I saw between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders a Lamb standing, as if slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth. And He came, and He took it out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne. And when He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, having each one a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying,
“Worthy are Thou to take the book, and to break its seals; for Thou wast slain, and didst purchase for God with Thy blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Rev. 5:6-9).
A matter as important as the atoning work of Christ was so vital, so important, so precious, that God long beforehand began to prepare men for its coming to pass. Thus we find the preciousness of blood and the principle of atonement revealed very early in the Pentateuch, and then clarified throughout the remainder of biblical revelation.
This leads me to a very important application: The principle of progressive revelation provides us with a vital clue to the importance of any teaching.
Because the atoning work of Christ was so important, so precious, God began to reveal the underlying principles very early in time. I believe that the same thing can be said for any doctrine that is truly vital, truly important, truly precious.
I would hope that you could readily and enthusiastically agree with this principle that important doctrines should have a long history of being progressively revealed. And yet the practice of many violates this principle. Think about it for a moment. What characterizes those truths about which some become most enthusiastic, and which they are so eager to proclaim to others? Let me suggest a few of the characteristics of revelation which is eagerly sought and taught:
a. That truth which is new and novel, which does not have a long track record. Often these truths are packaged and sold under the guise that “God has, in these last days, revealed some new and wonderful truths.” Rather than feeling the need to apologize for this novelty, these false teachers look down upon those in the past as less enlightened than they. This excuses their teaching from having to conform either to biblical revelation or from the church’s understanding of it through the history of the church. In the Book of Acts we see this desire for “newness” in the philosophers of Athens (Acts. 17:19-21).
b. That truth which is obscure, which is not clearly taught, and thus not recognized and accepted by most evangelical Christians. Rather than having to explain the fact that few accept their teaching, the false teachers look down upon those who haven’t “seen the truth” as unspiritual and less enlightened. In the days of the New Testament churches, this took the form of gnosticism. Also in Paul’s letters to Timothy there was the warning against speculative teaching.
c. That truth which conforms to one’s evil lifestyle, and which enables the “believer” to follow his own appetites and evil desires. Strangely enough, the “new doctrines” which are seen by the spiritual elite and missed by the masses, are those truths which justify the sins of its followers. Paul warns of those who will have itching ears, who will gather people who preach to their preferences (2 Tim. 4:3-4). Peter likewise warns of those who teach in a way that enables and encourages men to indulge in the flesh (cf. 2 Pet. 2:18-19).
Let us learn from the principle of progressive revelation that those truths which are vital and most valuable are those which have been taught in greater and greater clarity throughout the entire Bible. Let those matters which are scarcely mentioned not be major concerns or undue subjects for our curiosity.
In addition, the principle of progressive revelation provides us with the key to quickly discerning one’s orthodoxy: One of the best tests of Orthodoxy is to determine what value one places on the blood of Jesus Christ. One might object to the term orthodoxy, and may ask, what is to be defended in regards to traditional Christianity? I mean, how do we know that they got it right to begin with? Well the simple answer to that would be…the closer we get to the actual source (the disciples disciples – like Polycarp, Clement – Peter’s disciple. etc, etc) the better. Ask yourself, what did they believe in? Its sort of like the game ‘Telephone’, where one (the original source) gives the word, then that word is carried about in a large circle of many other members who whisper the original message, then when it gets back to its original source it is often distorted. Such are the distortions concerning the Blood of Christ today.
But the Scriptures tell us a different story. The doctrine of the preciousness of shed blood develops in its full bloom in the New Testament by declaring that the most precious substance of all is the shed blood of Christ. Thus, anyone who denies the preciousness of the blood is not true to the faith of the Bible, and thus denies saving power it has, which can be obtained by faith as well. We do not need to know everything which a certain sect teaches (although they are eager to teach us), we only need to know what they make of Christ’s blood. Is it alone what atones for our sins? Here is one of the touchstones for orthodoxy. This question may not flush out everyone, but it will expose most of them, if answered honestly.
2 The Preciousness of Blood In God’s Sight.
The Israelite of old learned from Leviticus, as nowhere else up to that point in time, the preciousness of blood to God. How much greater value does blood take on for the New Testament saint, whose blessings are all a result of the shed blood of Jesus Christ. As Harrison summarizes the matter,
The blood is the life of the flesh (Lev. 17:11), and it is through the atoning blood of Christ that the believer receives redemption (I Pet. 1:18-19), forgiveness (Eph. 1:7), justification (Rom. 5:9), spiritual peace (Col. 1:20), and sanctification (Heb. 13:12).92
Blood is not precious in its own right, but because it is equated with life. The principle conveyed first in Leviticus 17 is that “the life is in the blood.” Pressing this matter further, then, we can safely conclude that God values life as precious. Blood is the instrument through which atonement is made, which spares the life of the sinner. Life is thus precious to God, as well it can be for it was God who created all life (Gen. 1-2).
If blood (and, as we have seen, life) is precious, then there are several areas of application. The first application is that God values all life. Let the abortionist take note! Let those who talk about “quality of life” beware. God is the giver of life. Let us prove to be on God’s side by seeking to save life, rather than to destroy it.
Pressing the fact that God values all life to its personal level, we can say with great conviction, God values your life. God values your life much more highly than you do. The measure of the value which God has placed on your life is the price which He was willing to pay to save it: the precious blood of His only Son, Jesus Christ. According to this standard, God has placed infinite value on your life. May you and I value our life in the light of the value God has ascribed to it.
Further, knowing the value which God has assigned to life enables us to better grasp the evil of sin, which seeks to destroy life by producing death. Sin can only be appraised in the light of its ultimate result—death, and death can only be evaluated in the light of its opposite – life. How ugly sin is in the light of the value of the life which it seeks to destroy.
3 If We Truly Treasure the Blood of Christ, We Will Not Defile It.
The preciousness of the blood of Christ is a very pertinent factor in the life of the Christian. Peter maintains that the preciousness of the blood is to be the Christian’s motivation for purity—for avoiding profaning the price of our redemption. In other words, to resist the goal for which the blood of Christ was shed is to profane the price which was paid to realize this goal: purity and holiness. Put differently, the degree to which the blood of Christ is precious is also the measure of the penalty for profaning it.
The regulations which God gave to the Israelites in chapter 17 of the Book of Leviticus were intended to prevent the profaning the blood of living creatures. It should be granted, then, that what is precious should not be profaned. Are there ways in which the precious blood of our Lord Jesus Christ is profaned? I believe so.
First, the believer profanes the blood of Christ by persisting in the very sins from which the precious blood was intended to cleanse us. Listen to these most sobering words from the Book of Hebrews:
How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Heb 10:29, 31).
A second way in which the Christian can profane the precious blood of Christ is by a disregard for the Lord’s Table, or by misconduct in the remembrance of the Lord’s death. You will recall that in the 11th chapter of 1 Corinthians, the misconduct of the Corinthian saints was described. The result was that some were judged by sickness and some by death (1 Cor. 11:30). The reason given by Paul was that the saints did not “judge the body rightly” (v. 29). A part of this was surely that the blood, as symbolized in the wine (of which some drank too much, v. 21), was disregarded and thus profaned.
Not only is misconduct at the Lord’s Table profaning the blood of Christ, but also absence from the Lord’s Table. There are many who view communion as a ritual at best to be endured, and then only occasionally. The New Testament saints remembered the Lord daily (Acts 2:42, 46), and later it was weekly (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 11, cf. 16:2). Those who consistently fail to commemorate the Lord’s death not only disobey the command of our Lord (cf. Luke 22:19-20), but they profane the blood He has shed by valuing it so little that they fail to commemorate His death as He has instructed us. Forget your anniversary and you get a taste of what such neglect conveys to your loved one. Neglect the Lord’s Table, in the light of what we have learned of the blood, and you may profane His blood.
There is essentially but one way in which non-Christians profane the blood of Jesus Christ, and that is by esteeming it of so little worth that they seek acceptance with God on the basis of their own works or enlightenment in place of the atonement, in which Christ shed His own blood.
God cares nothing for what you have to offer, but only for what He Himself has offered you, His only begotten Son: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). How dare any man think he could offer God anything for his own redemption, when God has paid the price in full, as the cost of the blood of His Son.
If you have never claimed the blood of Christ for your own salvation, as payment for your sins, I urge you to do so now. If you would hesitate, let me leave you with this solemn thought. Every man will have to give an account for the blood of Christ. Those who accept it as God’s atoning gift will spend all eternity giving praise to God and to the Lamb for that blood. And those who reject the blood of Christ as their atonement, will find it to be their accuser. It will have these words with which to identify, the words of those who, at the trial of our Lord, called forth to Pilate as they rejected Him as their Messiah, “His blood be on us and on our children” (Matt. 27:25). These words may haunt you for all eternity
4 The Value Which We Place on the Blood of Christ Is Not Proven as Much By What We Profess, as By What We Practice.
As I have been meditating on the practical implications of the preciousness of the blood of Christ, it occurred to me that the Israelites’ practice was to prove their regard for blood. Their obedience to the regulations of Leviticus 17 was evidence that they, along with God, found blood to be precious.
The same is true for us. It is not enough to assent to the preciousness of the blood of Christ as a fact. It is not even enough to believe in the blood of Christ for one’s salvation. There must be some practical way in which we prove our regard for Christ’s blood by the way we act. This is not a particularly biblical pattern, but I can say from a few years of observation that people who find something precious tend to act the same way. Let me characterize the actions of one who has found something precious, and see if this describes your life as a result of finding Christ’s blood precious.
First, when a person finds something which he values as precious he will give all that he has to acquire it. The parable of the “pearl of great price” (Matt. 13:45-46) is but one illustration of this. If the blood of Christ is truly precious, we do not have to bribe men with false promises to convince them to accept it, nor do we have to minimize the cost. To put it in other words, to the degree that we dilute the gospel message (which has as its central theme the blood of Christ), we betray our own devaluation of His blood and we suggest to the others that it is not worth a man’s all.
Second, when we value something as precious, we can’t get enough of it. A person who values a certain kind of car as precious will get as many of them as he can. The one who values gold will also get all of it he can get his hands on. So, too, with the blood of Christ. We will not only claim it once for our salvation, but we will claim it on our every approach to God. We will never tire of talking of it, meditating on it, or speaking of it to others. The Lord’s Table will never be a burden, but a delight, if we truly find His blood precious. I find that when I acquire something I value greatly, I keep going out (usually, my models) to look at them. So we should see the blood in the Bible, from cover to cover, and never tire of looking for it and at it again.
Third, when a person finds something that is precious to him he seeks to share it with others. One who has a very rare coin, or jewel, or automobile will not try to give it away, but he will seek to share its beauty with others. That is, he will seek to show it off to others. Now my analogy breaks down here because the things which we value most on earth are rare. Thus, one is not about to give away something which is in short supply and which cannot be replaced. But the blood of Christ is very different. The blood is infinitely precious, but it is also infinitely available. Therefore you can give it away to as many as will believe it and not have your own supply of it diminished. What I am trying to say here is that we would seek to bring others to the knowledge of Jesus Christ through the blood, if we really valued the blood ourselves. Our estimation of the preciousness of Christ’s blood is the measure of our evangelistic zeal. It is our call – to make disciples of ALL men.
Fourth, when we truly find something precious we seek to guard it from damage or defilement. The things which are precious to us we lock up, we put bars around, and we buy alarm systems to protect. If we truly find the blood of Christ precious, we will do our best to keep from profaning it ourselves, or to keep others from profaning it. This relates, once again, to the way in which we remember the Lord’s Table and the way in which we live out our lives in personal holiness.
5 The Shedding of Blood Is the Standard By Which Love Is Measured.
There remains but one thing more to say, and that is that the measure of true love is ultimately one’s willingness to shed his blood for another. Our Lord taught that no one has greater love than the one who will lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13). The death of Christ went one step beyond this, for He died for us while we were His enemies (Rom. 5:6-8). If we truly love others, we will shed our blood for them. If we truly love God, we will be willing to shed our blood for Him. It is against this principle that the words of the writer to the Hebrews come on us with stinging force. He is writing to those who would forsake their faith because of some opposition, and he concludes, “You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin” (Heb. 12:4). Any struggle with sin which does not go this far betrays a lack of love.
May the blood of Christ be more precious to you now than it has ever been before.